Publication in Child and Youth Mortality Review Committee updated 15th Dec 2011

Special Report: The involvement of alcohol consumption in the deaths of children and young people in New Zealand during the years 2005–2007

While it is commonly accepted that alcohol misuse is harmful, very little is known about the effects of alcohol on the lives of children in New Zealand, particularly those under the age of 16. This special report was commissioned to investigate the role that alcohol consumption plays in the deaths of children and young people in New Zealand.

This report examines 357 deaths of children and young people aged between 4 weeks and 24 years who died in New Zealand during the years 2005 to 2007. In 87 of these, the death was attributable to alcohol or alcohol clearly contributed to the death. Of these 87 deaths, 49 involved a motor vehicle, 16 involved assault and 11 were due to drowning. The majority of these deaths related to young people 15 to 24 years.

The data shows a dramatic increase in death rates for injury from age 15 years onwards; much of this relates to adolescent risk-taking behaviour for which alcohol is a precipitating factor. This report also highlights that too many young people are victims of their own drinking or victims of the drinking of others. These issues represent different parts of the same problem but require different strategies for prevention. Victims of their own drinking typically drive while intoxicated, carry out risky behaviours (eg, being an intoxicated pedestrian) or drink to the point of poisoning and death. Most victims of others’ drinking get into cars with, or are injured by, an intoxicated driver or are assaulted by people who are drunk.

For additional information on the impact of alcohol in relation to offending and victimisation please see this report from New Zealand Police.

Related news: Zero alcohol limit law results in huge drop in teenage drink-drive convictions

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